A View from the Sacristy: Mystery Lenten Object?

March 16, 2016 Comments Off on A View from the Sacristy: Mystery Lenten Object?

In this last week of Lent let’s look at something that we have all seen since Ash Wednesday but might not have even noticed. Here are a few of hints:

  • It’s difficult to miss. It’s large and square and sits on the altar.
  • Outside of Lent, we use something different to do the job this item does during Lent.
  • It is used at every service in the church and it is hardly ever noticed, except when it is forgotten.

Give up? It’s our Lenten Altar Book stand, a.k.a., The Holy Pillow!

holy pillowAt St Luke’s we have two pillows: The first is the Theotókos Pillow we use on Christmas Eve to bring the Christ Child to the crèche. Theotókos  (Θεοτόκος) is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus, used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include “God-bearer”, “Birth-Giver of God,” and “the one who gives birth to God.

The second is The Holy Pillow we use as a book stand for the Altar Book from Ash Wednesday through Good Friday.  The Altar Book is used for worship in conjunction with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  It includes Eucharistic material, Collects, Prayers of the People, Proper Liturgies for Special Days, musical notation and settings, a musical appendix, instructions on singing the Collects, Lessons, and the Gospel, and rubrics: directions for the conduct of the divine service or the administration of the sacraments, inserted in liturgical books; from the Latin for “red”, rūbrīca, it was originally a title, heading, direction, or the like, in a manuscript, book, etc., written or printed in red or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.

The Holy Pillow has two distinct sides: one side matches our Lenten Array vestments and is the color of unbleached linen. The other side is Passion Red and matches the vestments we use from Palm Sunday through Good Friday. The Passion Red side has an added decoration of a cross in red and white that goes from side to side.

I enjoy watching how our different clergy use the pillow. Some like to lean the altar book against it while others prefer to place the altar book on top of the pillow. Both systems have their positive and negative: leaning the altar book can make turning the pages difficult but it makes the text easy to read. On the other hand, placing the altar book on top of the pillow can make the text difficult to read but turning the pages easy.

During Lent our tradition is to remove from the liturgy many of the finer sacred vessels we normally; we put away the silver candles sticks, we cover the processional cross, and we put away our beautiful brass altar book stand and use an humble pillow at our liturgies. Check it out this Sunday !

– Sean Scheller

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